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How to Plan a Year-round Homeschool Year
Written by Amber Marie | June 29, 2018
Now that summer has hit, I couldn’t help but get excited for the upcoming school year. This past year I did a combination of Pre-K/Kindergarten curriculum for my five-year-old son. This upcoming school year will be his “official” kindergarten year. But where to start? How do you plan a school year, especially if you want to do a year-round schedule? This is where I went back to my experiences with planning as an elementary school teacher. The methods I share below are not exact steps I took as a teacher, but they are pretty darn close. And considering that I am a homeschooler now and no longer a public school teacher, I do have a bit more flexibility with my planning. So scroll down and take a look at how I plan a year-round homeschool year.
Step 1: Timing and Curriculums
The first thing I did was gathered my curriculums and a notebook. The notebook is to help with brainstorming what you’d like your year to look like. This includes how many days a week you want to teach, what subjects will you be teaching and how often, how many weeks or days of school will you have this school year, what breaks you want to schedule in, and so much more. Take a look at the image below for an example of the notebook page with all my school year brainstorming.
As far as curriculums go, I gather what I have and then I try to find the table of contents of any curriculums I may be using later in the year, but haven’t purchased yet. For example, I will be using the Good and Beautiful Level K Language Arts program, but don’t need it until September or October, so I will wait until then to make the purchase. Since I didn’t have this curriculum on hand, I needed to find the table of contents to help me determine how long it would take to teach the curriculum. You can find the table of contents for most of the Good and the Beautiful curriculums on Jenny Phillips website. Download the coursebook preview and it should be within the first few pages. As for other curriculums, christianbook.com has wonderful sample pages you can access and many of them include the table of contents for the different curriculums available. You can see this in more detail on my Youtube channel, Forging Foundations Homeschool Channel, in my planning video.
Step 2: Map out the year on a calendar
After you figure out the main details from step one, it is time to map everything out on your calendar. The calendar I used went from June 2018 to June 2019. You can download a year at a glance calendar for free online at timeanddate.com. You can customize it to start with any month. I plan on starting each new school year at the end of July, but if you would rather start in August or January or whenever, you can adjust the calendar to your liking.
Once you have the calendar in your hand, start by figuring out what week you want to start. For me, as mentioned above, we are starting the last week of July as many of our vacations will be complete by then. I started by labeling this as week one. From there I continued numbering the weeks until I reached a natural break from either a holiday or when I felt we would need one. Our family is expecting our third child mid-September, so I put a week there to break, however, I left flexibility for another week to be taken before jumping back into school if need be.
Continue this process of numbering weeks and break weeks until you reach the end of the year. It helps to know where you would like to end your year so that you can see how far from that point you are. This will allow you to spread your breaks out nicely so that as you approach the end of the year, you are not stressing about filling the time. Once I planned out the calendar on the ones I printed from timeanddate.com, I took it one step further.
I’ll be honest, I love technology, and I am a VERY VISUAL person. So color-coding and having everything in one place really helps me stay on task. So I used an excel template from Vertex42.com to help create a year calendar that allowed me to color code break weeks along with my four quarters (terms), and number the weeks. My example, along with a blank copy of a year calendar, can be downloaded below.
Step 3: Map out your Curriculums using a Scope and Sequence
This takes me back to my teaching days as we always had to pull together a scope and sequence for each subject we were teaching that year. Essentially, a scope and sequence is a plan that shows what lessons or units you plan on teaching during the weeks of your school year. In my example below, I broke my scope and sequence table into three groups: Language Arts, Mathematics, and Handwriting. I am not planning on using a History or Science curriculum this year as I am part of Classical Conversations and I feel my son gets plenty through this homeschool coop.
Under each subject, I split them into the different curriculums, or levels I was using. For example, for Math this upcoming year, I plan on finishing the Abeka K5 workbook that we started this past year. When we hit week thirteen, I switch curriculums and start using the Good and Beautiful Level K math. Having these two curriculums split up in the math column allowed me to visualize the timing better.
As you move further down my scope and sequence you’ll notice that as we get closer to week fourty, I have weeks called “overflow”. Overflow weeks allow for lessons to be spread out over remaining weeks in case of sickness, or other interruptions to the schedule of our school year. For example, let’s imagine that we have a week where everyone is sick in our house. Well we can take that week off in school and continue where we left off the following week. Best part is we don’t have to stress about missing a week because each subject has at least four or five weeks of overflow allotted.
Now, you may be looking at my scope and sequence and wondering, “where are you getting all those lesson numbers?” This is where my curriculum table of contents come in. I take a look at the number of lessons listed in each curriculums and plan them out based on the number of days I allotted for each subject. Not only does this help me visualize how long a curriculum will last, but it also gives me a good idea of how much wiggle room I have to make adjustments throughout the school year.
For example, if a lesson or concept takes a bit longer than one or two days to explain to my son, I can adjust my scope and sequence accordingly (especially since I have those overflow weeks built in). I won’t go and print a new one, but instead just make adjustments on the actual copy using sticky notes or pencil to cross out and adjust. However, if you have the time, feel free to change it on the computer to accommodate. Only thing I would suggest is make sure to keep the original handy so you can reflect at the end of the year. This helps with adjusting your next school year. The template for this scope and sequence can be downloaded below. Feel free to adjust to your needs and add more if needed.
Step 4: Get the Lessons Written in your Planner of Choice
So the school year is approaching and you want to make sure you start it off strong. This is the time to get your handy dandy planner out, whether it be a paper planner or an app on your phone. Take a look at your school year calendar along with your scope and sequence and fill out the first month of school. Now I wouldn’t go any further than one month at a time because LIFE HAPPENS! I would hate to see you fill out your whole planner just to have to erase a whole month later because you may have fell behind.
There are so many different planners out there from online ones to phone apps to paper ones that are very popular. I find myself enjoying the satisfaction of crossing something off with a pencil on paper. I did a lot of research trying to find a planner that would fit all my needs and although I liked a lot of them, there wasn’t something that had everything I wanted. So what is a mom to do but make her own. In the pictures below, you’ll see my planner, however, if you’d like a more in depth look, I’ll be doing a live session today at 3 pm on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for a quick look into my planner along with a Q&A for those who have questions about my planning method.
Once my planner is in hand, I will use my scope and sequence along with my year calendar to plan out the month. I’ll write down which lessons I plan to do each day and schedule in breaks. Having a month written in at a time helps me to stay on track with my school year. Now, obviously, there is a chance that life will still happen and a school day or week may need to be pushed back, but I don’t stress because all I need to do is change the lesson numbers listed next to each curriculum for the remainder of the month (rather than a whole year!!!).
So there you have it…how to plan a year-round school year. This may be too overwhelming for some and I totally understand. For me, this helps me stay accountable and stay on track so I am not wasting time during the school year.
One thing I do suggest is to keep all your planning resources in one place. As the year progresses, make notes of things that worked and didn’t. Take time at the end of the year to reflect on how everything went with the planning (this is where those little notes will come in handy to help jog your memory). This time next year, I’ll have a video of my own reflection on how the school year went in regards to my planning along with the curriculums I used.
I truly hope this helped any of you struggling with trying to make a game plan for your upcoming school year. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments below if you need anything clarified. Be sure to join me live today (June 29th) at 3 pm for a Q&A about my planning process. And don’t worry if you miss it, I’ll upload the video to the Forging Foundations Homeschool Channel after the live session closes.
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Did you like the planning resources I used above? If so, don’t spend time recreating the wheel! Download those planning freebies by completing the form below. If you are already a Club Member, this freebie will be listed in the Member’s Library under “Featured Freebies”
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How do you plan your school year? Do you use a year-round or traditional schedule? Share in the comments below.